Following the arrest of "gau rakshak" Vaibhav Raut and two other right-wing activists, which led to seizure of arms and bomb-making equipment by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad or ATS near Mumbai, the agency has seized motorcycles, mobile phones, pen drives and documents related to the case in Pune today.
The ATS is trying to find out if the latest development is related to the high-profile murders and if the accused were in touch with the Hindu Janjagruti Samiti, an extreme right-wing group and an another group whose member is accused of killing rationalists Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare.
"The Maharashtra ATS should probe these outfits which were also charge-sheeted in Dabholkar and Pansare cases and have been under the scanner in Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh investigation. They might find links between the explosives seized and the murders," Hamid Dabholkar, Narendra Dabholkar's son, said.
The anti-terrorism squad or ATS is specifically looking into allegations that these men may have been buying and making weapons for illegal activities in the state, and to set up a karkhana or "arms unit". During the probe into the murder of Narendra Dabholkar, investigative agencies came across an email that contained instructions to set up a karkhana or 'arms unit' and this was mentioned in the charge-sheet filed against Virendra Tawde of Sanatan Sanstha.
Last week, the ATS seized 10 country-made pistols, a revolver, an air gun, six vehicle number plates and other incriminating material from the spots where raids were conducted after interrogating the three right-wing activists, who were picked up from Nallasopara in Palghar district of Maharashtra on Friday.
The ATS said Vaibhav Raut, a member of 'Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti', was planning a "terror attack". The other accused Sudhanwa Gondhalekar, 39, and Sharad Kasalkar, 25, are also from Nallasopara.
Gondhalekar is suspected to be a member of the Shri Shivapratishthan Hindustan, which is headed by Sambhaji Bhide. Bhide has been charged in two criminal cases in connection with violence near Bhima Koregaon on January 1 by the Pune Police. Kasalkar is believed to be a close aide of Raut.
The agency has questioned 16 people for links with the three arrested. Suspects are being questioned in Pune, Satara, Nallasopara, and Solapur, ATS sources said.
The Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, however, termed Raut's arrest as "Malegaon part II". The group was referring to the arrest of several leading Hindu functionaries, including Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and Colonel Prasad Shrikant Purohit, during the investigations into the Malegaon blasts in a Muslim locality killing seven and injuring over 80.
"Vaibhav Raut is a daring cow protector. He was active through an organisation- Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti - dedicated to the protection of cows," said a Hindu Janajagruti Samiti leader, Sunil Ghanvat.